When did Disney buy Marvel? Acquisition explained

Trudie Graham
Chris Evans as Captain America in front of the Disney castle.

The Walt Disney Company’s Marvel acquisition was one of the most impactful deals in modern Hollywood’s history. So, let’s break down when Disney bought Marvel.

Additional intricacies include how much it paid for the privilege of producing Marvel movies, and what the deal meant for competing studios like Universal. With that in mind, we’ve gone over the cash involved, too.

The MCU’s inception lengthened Disney’s extensive reach in the film industry, and there are many other brands nested under the company, too.

This deal shifted Tinsel Town’s tectonic plates and resulted in some of the highest-grossing movies ever, for better or for worse.

When did Disney buy Marvel?

Disney bought Marvel Entertainment on December 31, 2009.

Avengers Endgame poster.

While the purchase would have gone through more rounds of deliberation than multiverses, the deal was sealed on New Year’s Eve, 2009 — no rest for the wicked.

This was one year after Robert Downey Jr.’s comeback film, Iron Man, released in 2008 to fanfare. The Marvel IP had proven value, so Disney struck while the iron was hot.

In August 2015, Marvel Studios — a separate entity — was absorbed into Walt Disney Studios, with Kevin Feige reporting to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn instead of Marvel Entertainment’s CEO Isaac Perlmutter. Marvel Television and Marvel Animation were kept under the Marvel Entertainment banner.

On March 29, 2023, Marvel Entertainment, which included Marvel Comics and Marvel Games, was folded into Disney’s larger business units during layoffs.

How much did Disney buy Marvel for?

Disney bought Marvel for $4 billion.

Marvel Entertainment logo.

That investment, while jaw-dropping, was ultimately profitable after the colossal success of the Infinity Saga.

Disney gained access to over 5000 Marvel characters, so it had near-limitless potential to mine for new movies.

Who did Disney buy Marvel from?

Before Disney, Ronald Perelman owned Marvel Entertainment under MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings.

On January 6, 1989, the American banker and businessman bought it from New World Entertainment Ltd for $82 million.

After a rough period, Marvel Entertainment filed for bankruptcy in 1996, then was saved by a merger with ToyBiz.

What else does Disney own?

Besides Marvel Entertainment, Disney owns 20th Century Fox’s IP, Lucasfilm for Star Wars, Pixar, and many more.

Lucasfilm's logo.

Disney owns all of these companies:

  • Marvel Entertainment
  • Lucasfilm
  • Pixar
  • 20th Century Studios
  • Hollywood Records
  • ABC
  • ESPN
  • Vice Media
  • Steamboat Ventures
  • Club Disney
  • Disney Channel
  • Disney Music Group
  • Disney Studio Services
  • Disneyland Resort
  • Disney Cinemagic
  • Disney experiences
  • Disney Junior
  • Disney Store
  • Disneynature
  • Hulu
  • National Geographic
  • Walt Disney Pictures

Since Disney also acquired 20th Century Fox (rebranded to 20th Century Studios), it has rights to Fantastic Four characters and the X-Men movies, too.

Spider-Man is still owned by Sony Pictures, so Marvel Entertainment struck a mutually beneficial licensing agreement to have Tom Holland’s Peter Parker in the MCU’s superhero movies.

Basically, Mickey Mouse collects $200 every time he passes square ‘Go’.

What was the most expensive Disney acquisition?

Shockingly, 20th Century Fox was the most expensive Disney acquisition, costing $71.3 billion.

In December 2017, Disney announced the acquisition. The purchase went through in March 2019.

Fox was worth so much because of its longevity, blockbuster franchises like Avatar, and the awards-friendly studio Fox Searchlight. Disney would have seen untapped potential in some of their best movies, such as the Alien brand.

Whew. Where’s Elle Woods when you need her?

Looking ahead, upcoming Marvel movies including the soon-arriving Deadpool 3 release date and Avengers 5. From the 20th Century vertical, the Alien Romulus release date looms on the inky-black horizon.